One would think it’s 2010 with some of the names near the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard. Zach Johnson. Martin Kaymer. Major champions that represent the recent past. As the first round of the PGA Championship wrapped up, Jason Day was alone on top. His five-under 65 was the clubhouse lead.
“There was definitely a lot of momentum coming in off the previous finishes that I’ve had, three top 10s, which has been nice,” Day said to reporters via Zoom conference call. “The game feels like it’s coming around. I’m pleased with it.”
Day enters the 102nd PGA Championship with momentum. The last three tournaments he played, he finished in the top-10. The 2015 PGA champion converted 64.3 percent of his fairways and 72.2 percent greens in regulation in his opening round.
Day knows that avoiding the rough is the top priority at TPC Harding Park.
“Fortunately, I wasn’t in too much of it today, and then when I did hit into it, I got lucky,” Day said. “It is very thick and patchy in some parts of the golf course.”
While Day can enjoy the overnight 18-hole lead, there is a plethora of winning golfers chasing him. Brooks Koepka, the two-time defending PGA champion, sits at four-under, shooting a first-round 66.
The four-time major champion had just two bogeys on the card and he responded with birdies every time. After finishing runner-up last week at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Koepka is once again in major form.
“We had a lot of good numbers today, which always helps, but struck it really well, put it in the right spots,” Koepka said. “Felt like I had a good uphill look most of the time, and that’s what you need to do out here.”
Many questions surrounded Tiger Woods entering the PGA Championship, particularly his age and not playing many rounds before the tournament. While Woods’ first-round wasn’t perfect, he made birdie putts, critical par saves, and scrambled around the greens.
No better example than on his first hole of the championship, where Woods hit a flop shot on the short side over the bunker to then make the birdie putt.
Woods is using a new Scotty Cameron putter this week. The putter is similar to his previous model.
“I’ve been messing around with this putter for the better part of over a year,” Woods said. “Most of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they have gotten older because it’s easier to bend over, or not bend over. And so this putter is just a little bit longer and I’ve been able to spend a little bit more time putting.”
The afternoon golfers faced windier conditions than the morning wave, hence leading to higher scores. Bryson DeChambeau, who broke his driver on the 8th hole, settled with a two-under 68.
Canadian Adam Hadwin, after opening his championship with an eagle from the fairway, also shot two-under.
But it was Brendon Todd, who tied Jason Day at five-under 65. Todd, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, conquered the tricky conditions on the back 9, with two birdies and zero bogeys. It is the first time in his PGA Tour career that he holds the 18-hole lead/co-lead.
There’s a lot of golf left to be played. Given the disparity in scores from the morning to the afternoon, the weather may be the determining factor to contend for the weekend.
Main Photo: 2015 PGA Champion Jason Day shot the clubhouse lead five-under par. (Photo by: Darren Carroll/PGA of America)